Reason 3 for losing 8: The coordinators
This is a make-or-break year as far as Jay Johnson and Scottie Hazelton are concerned.
There were calls for letting Hazelton go as early as the Washington game last year as the subpar defense from 2021 got worse the next year. He explained why he thought last year didn’t go well at his press conference and how they didn’t have the depth to let their ‘A’ players get enough rest and by the second half, they just ran out of gas and that I understand.
What I don’t understand is how the pass defense allowed wide receivers and quarterbacks to play pitch and catch with no defender within five yards of them. That doesn’t seem like a personnel problem, that seems like a scheme problem. While the defense seemed to look better as the year went on, and players came back from injury, but another year of not having a top-40 defense for prominent Power Five school is unacceptable. Hazelton did some amazing things at Wyoming and Kansas State, and now it’s time to show why Mel Tucker trusts him to run the defense.
As for Johnson, his job got easy when the play sheet has two plays: A) Give the ball to Kenneth Walker III and B) deep shot to Jalen Nailor or Jayden Reed.
The 2020 and 2022 seasons had largely been awful offensively and there’s plenty of excuses for each season, but this season needs to be different. The offensive line is better, the running back room is better, and the amount of talent in the tight ends room is enough to insulate a young quarterback. Play to this teams’ strength, get your playmakers in space, and get creative. In other words, coordinate the offense.
All I hear is that this is the most talented roster Tucker has had at Michigan State and it’s up to these coaches and coordinators to maximize that talent. They have all the time in the world to figure it out since I don’t think either of these coordinators will be distracted by head coaching job offers.